Bulls feel better prepared for this postseason


Bulls feel better prepared for this postseason

The regular season is in the books and the Bulls will at least share a piece of the best record in this shortened season and have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Its been a different year for all 30 teams throughout the league, but even with some concerns going into the postseason regarding the health of reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls feel they are better equipped for this postseason run as opposed to last season.

We have more scoring this year, said Tom Thibodeau. Last year, Derrick, we really relied heavily on his scoring to give ourselves a good chance to win. This year, Derrick doesnt have to score like that. We have a number of guys who can score the ball. Its a more balanced attack. Having six guys who can score in double figures helps a lot.

Probably the biggest difference from last year is we had guys up front that were coming off of injury and now our guys up front have been healthy all year. The injuries have been to the guys in the backcourt. Our bench has been great all season long. I think Derrick is feeling, probably, better than he has in a long time, so thats a big plus and Rip Hamilton has gotten his legs under him. We just have to be ready to go.

It seems almost every one of the 14 players on the roster has stepped up at some point during the season when someone was injured. No matter if it was Rose, Deng or Hamilton, the depth of the team truly shined when it was most needed.

It just shows that our coaching staff and organization put a core group together where 1 through 14 can flat-out play, said John Lucas III. "Everybody has confidence and one thing about this team is we all have each others back.

"Nobody gets down; we all want to see each other succeed. We have great chemistry. Mentally, were right there and now its time. Now the season really starts. Were excited and we feel like we have unfinished business to attend to.

Fifty wins in a 66 game season is very impressive, but as last year showed, the leagues best record doesnt mean anything when everybody goes back to 0-0.

Theres also the fact that their Bulls' starting lineup has only played in just 15 games together, which may or may not have a significant impact at some point during the postseason.

I think weve played well enough to do well in the playoffs, said Carlos Boozer. Our chemistry is very good and I think we been able to use our practices to come along and get over the hump on having guys out.

"We had a couple of different guys out at different times, but we been able to play through it because we practice well and were a deep team, so it worked out good.

All eyes are sure to be on Rose when the postseason starts as many will look to see some form of the offensive dominance he displayed last postseason, but this year, the feeling within the Bulls locker room is he doesnt have to be that player.

Were so much spread out now, said Boozer. Obviously, hes our closer and our MVP, but were so deep. We have four or five other guys who can get you 20 points on a given night. Weve been able to gel with him and surround him with a lot of talent and a lot of players who can score the ball. Then when the game is on the line, you know where the ball is going and he comes through for us time and time again.

Hes not 100 percent but hes going to play with everything that he has and its a lot better than other guys have. Well take that.

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

USA Today

How much better did the Bears' NFC North opponents get in the first round of the NFL Draft?

The Bears collectively kicked their feet up Thursday night, watching the NFL Draft unfold with a few Khalil Mack highlight clips thrown in there to remind them why they didn’t have anything to do. 

The Bears’ competition in the NFC North, though, made four picks Thursday night, infusing significant talent into the division. A look at who Bears players on offense and defense will have to deal with twice a year starting in 2019:

Detroit Lions: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa (No. 8 overall pick)

Where he’s ranked: 6th (Dane Brugler/The Athletic), 12th (Danny Kelly/The Ringer), 13th (Josh Norris/Rotoworld), 21st (Pro Football Focus)

Why it makes sense: Hockenson is one of the best tight end prospects to be drafted in recent history. He’s a true combo in-line tight end, someone who can create mismatches against any defense with his ability to both block and catch. He’s regarded as a high-character player, too, someone who the Lions may believe can help change a deteriorating culture inside their locker room

Why it doesn’t: Hockenson is only the third tight end in the last 20 years to be dated with a top-10 pick, and the last one was…Eric Ebron, who flopped with the Lions after being the 10th overall pick in 2014. The big question for how this pick is viewed may not be how good Hockenson is, but how the guy drafted one pick after him — defensive tackle Ed Oliver — winds up being. 

Green Bay Packers: EDGE Rashan Gary, Michigan (No. 12), S Darnell Savage, Maryland (No. 21)

Where Gary ranks: No. 13 (Brugler), No. 13 (Kelly), No. 15 (Norris), No. 48 (PFF)

Where Savage ranks: No. 28 (PFF), No. 33 (Norris), No. 39 (Kelly), No. 58 (Brugler)

Why it makes sense: Gary and Savage inject loads of talent into a Green Bay defense that underwent a massive overhaul during free agency. Gary will join a pass rush featuring Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Kyler Fackrell, giving defensive coordinator Mike Pettine excellent depth to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The super-athletic Gary has tremendous upside, even if his college production never matched former ranking as the nation’s No. 1 recruit. If the Packers can harness that raw talent, he could be a menace in the division for years to come. 

Savage, meanwhile, looks like a solid partner to pair with Adrian Amos in the back end of the Packers’ defense. He picked off four passes in 2018 and possesses the kind of traits — physicality, speed, ball skills — that teams desire in safeties. Perhaps the Packers see him as a version of Eddie Jackson, who paired well with Amos in 2017 and 2018 with the Bears. 

Why it doesn’t: A couple of instant reactions to the Gary pick didn’t paint it in a positive light:

Gary finished his three-year college career with only 9 1/2 sacks, two fewer than Bears 2018 sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts had in his three years at Utah. He also had a labrum injury pop up that could be of some concern. Further back: Gary, perhaps, could remind you of Alonzo Spellman — the Bears’ 22nd overall pick in 1992 who had nine sacks in three years at Ohio State and took a few years to get off the ground in Chicago (he had 32 sacks in six seasons with the Bears). 

There’s less to not like with Savage — he was a late riser and is a little undersized, but pairing him with Amos seems to make all the sense in the world on paper. 

Minnesota Vikings: C Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State (No. 18)

Where he ranks: No. 17 (Brugler), No. 18 (Norris), No. 23 (Kelly), No. 41 (PFF)

Why it makes sense: The Vikings desperately need offensive line help, and likely felt fortunate that there wasn’t a run on offensive linemen prior to their pick. Bradbury can immediately step in and improve the interior of Minnesota’s offensive line, keeping pressure out of Kirk Cousins’ face and opening holes for Dalvin Cook. His bi-annual battles against Eddie Goldman should be fun to watch. 

Why it doesn’t: A few analysts noted Bradbury being undersized and not having ideal length, though his athleticism and technique should overcome whatever those deficiencies may be. This feels like a smart pick by the Vikings. 


— The Oakland Raiders were the only team to pick a running back in the first round, and used the pick the Bears sent them — No. 24 overall — to grab Alabama’s Josh Jacobs. 

— If you’re looking for a position that could see some talented players fall to the Bears’ No. 87 pick: Wide receiver and cornerback. Only Hollywood Brown (No. 23, Baltimore Ravens) and N'Keal Harry (No. 32, New England Patriots) went among receivers; the first cornerback didn't go off the board until the New York Giants traded back into the first round and picked Georgia's Deandre Baker 30th overall. If the Bears have a few players with high grades at either of those positions, there's a chance of those guys slipping deep into the third round and giving Ryan Pace an opportunity to take a clear-cut best player available.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Kris Versteeg on signing with IceHogs and possibility of one more spin with Blackhawks


Hawks Talk Podcast: Kris Versteeg on signing with IceHogs and possibility of one more spin with Blackhawks

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle catches up with two-time Stanley Cup winner and the newest member of the Rockford IceHogs Kris Versteeg.

Versteeg explains his recent medical issues and his experience playing last season in the KHL and Swedish Elite League. He also talks about why he decided to sign a one-year deal with Rockford and defines his role with the IceHogs.

Versteeg weighs in on getting a third chance to play for the Blackhawks organization and what would be the perfect ending to the Kris Versteeg hockey movie?

1:00 - Why sign with Rockford?
2:00 - KHL experience
3:00 - Back on track in Sweden
4:30 - Health update
6:00 - Deal with Rockford
7:30 - Contact with Kane and Toews?
9:00 - Family coming to Rockford?
10:00 - Mentor or last fling with Hawks?
12:00 - Kris Versteeg Movie Ending

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.